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Auto Clubs are rolling in the region


For many people, the thought of owning a vintage Studebaker or classic Corvette is a way of recovering a part of their youth and the nostalgia of bygone years. It may even be a reminder of a father who passed his penchant for collector cars on to his son.

“I was born with it,” said Bill McBride of Ophelia. “I always loved them, but never could afford one.”

Now McBride owns a 1966 Mustang and 2000 Corvette. 

“My dad owned a 1954 Mercedes-Benz,” he said, thinking back to the days when his father was in the Coast Guard.

McBride still remembers his dad taking him to car shows at the Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown. The show, put on by the Hampton Mustang Club, not only sparked a young man’s interest in Mustangs, but McBride also recalled the fun he had at the events. “For five dollars you got all you could eat and there was always a band,” he said.

Classic and exotic car enthusiasts love to show off their cars and congregate with others who appreciate the time, talent and money it takes to keep a great car in tip-top condition. The best way to enjoy the full experience is through area car clubs and participation in Cruise-Ins.

Classic 1950s automobiles lined up for public inspection at the Northern Neck Region’s 17th annual Antique Car Show. (photo by Starke Jett)

Variety of area Car Clubs
McBride is a member of the Northern Neck Corvette Club, which started in February and already has more than 50 members in possession of Corvettes dating back to the first years of production—a 1954 Touring Coupe—and up to high-tech computerized 2010 models.

The club is so young, they’ve sponsored only a few cruise-ins and club parties, said president Roger McKinley. Members hold fun monthly meetings where they show off their cars, organize parties and discuss participation in other local and regional car club events, parades and cruise-ins, he said.

One club open to car enthusiasts no matter what kind of collectible they own, is the diverse Northern Neck Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (NN Region). Headquartered in Warsaw, it covers the entire Northern Neck. The club has been operating since 1993 as part of a national organization, sponsoring car shows and other events.

There is no criteria to join. Members do not have to own their own car. They just need to love cars.  Minimal annual dues are required for the local and national chapter, with the funds going to support local events, trophies and door prizes.

Bill McBride inherited his passion for classic cars. (photo by Audrey Thomasson)

According to Jack Ashburn, a former event organizer for the club, a huge influx of collector cars to Northumberland, Lancaster and Middlesex counties has prompted local collectors to start kicking around the idea of starting their own club and holding more events closer to home.

“We were already organizing a number of events, so we thought ‘Why not have our own club?’” said Ashburn.

In fact, plans are already taking shape for cruise-ins, charity events, grand openings, road tours to famous estates and collections such as the Heinz estate, participation in the Kilmarnock Christmas Parade and social functions over the next few months.

A favorite among organizers will be touring the region to visit members whose garages are filled with antique and classic cars. In February or March 2011, when most clubs are in winter hibernation, the group wants to hold an indoor car show in Kilmarnock.

Driving fascination
“There’s always been a fascination with the automobile, ever since there was an automobile,” Ashburn said of the growing interest in a new, local club. “I want to say it’s a guy thing, but we have some women who join because they have an interest in cars as well.”

He explained people’s interest in a particular car is usually driven by their age. “It’s what you grew up with. It’s a generational thing.” For example, most people who collect Mustangs probably came of age around the time of the Mustang’s debut in the mid-1960s. Generations from the 1950s and ‘60s also collect Corvettes with the most popular year being ‘67, he said. 

A 1957 Corvette Convertible, owned by J.R. Roscher of Lancaster for 24 years, is estimated to be worth $50,000. (photo by Starke Jett)

“In 1967, the Corvette originally cost $4,000 to $5,000. Today, a ‘67 run-of-the-mill Corvette could cost $50,000 to $60,000,” said Ashburn. “Another popular collection is the Tri-fives—the ‘55, ‘56 and ‘57 Chevrolets.”

Hindering the appeal of cars like the Ferrari—besides the sticker price—is the expense for maintenance. A tune-up could cost about $12,000 for a 1980 model, he noted.  Corvettes appeal to many collectors because they are attractive and, as an American-made Chevrolet, parts are available and they’re easier to maintain, he said.

While tinkering on the engine of collector cars may appeal to some, owners of late-models cars like the Corvette, suggest having a good mechanic nearby.

McKinley said General Motors started installing complicated systems in Corvettes after 1982. Systems such as electronic stability control and a selection of driving modes that, with the push of a button, can change the whole complexity of how the care drives can be too complicated for amateur mechanics. “Most everything is done by computer,” he said.

“I don’t work on the Corvette because under the hood it’s all motor,” said McBride.

Gene’s Riley Special is a 1930s flat tail, dirt track, sprint racing car which is still racing in vintage races. It was displayed at the 2010 Wings and Wheels by Dave Rex of Williamsburg. (photo by Tom Chillemi)

Perfect season for cruisin’
While scorching heat can be brutal on the engines of vintage models and cold, rain and ice are killers to any collectible car hobbyist who spends hours polishing up the chrome, autumn’s milder climates are the perfect time of year for club events. Drive around and you’ll find parking lots full of shiny classic cars and owners eager to brag about them.

September kicked off a number of local events including the NN Region’s 17th Annual Antique Car Show. Held in Kilmarnock this year, the crowd enjoyed viewing some 125 vintage cars and trucks, including a 1930 V-16 Cadillac. The show featured special guest appearances by the reigning Miss America, Caressa Cameron, and Miss Wheelchair of Virginia, Nikki Swann.

Also in September, the 15th annual Wings ‘n Wheels show was held at Hummel Field in Topping. Some 3,500 visitors admired 26 aircraft and 186 automobiles and motor vehicles. Classic cars on display ranged from 1930s flat track racers to a Ford GT super car, Studebakers and Corvettes.

And when they’re not showing off their cars, members find other excuses to get together and talk cars, like oyster roasts, picnics and barbecues.

Few things can beat driving down an open road with nowhere to go—unless you happen to be accompanied by 20 or 30 of your closest car club friends also out for the pure enjoyment of riding in their favorite classic car.

Upcoming events
  • Oct. 10, 4 - 6 p.m., Kilmarnock Cruise-In at Chesapeake Commons.
  • Oct. 23, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., Cruise-In at Kilmarnock Farmers’ Market, all collector cars welcome.
  • Oct. 23, 4-6 p.m. Cruise-In in White Stone at the light.
  • Nov. 6, 9 a.m., Fall Tour, starting at Lancaster Square.
  • Dec. 10, 6 p.m., Kilmarnock Christmas Parade. Assemble at former McGinnis Chevy/Buick lot.

Local Clubs
Northern Neck Region
of the Antique

Automobile Club of America
Contact: Ward Sevila, president, 804-580-4177
Meets: 7:30 p.m. the fourth Thursday of the month, Professional Building in Callao.
Membership: 100 members, variety of cars 25 years or older.
Events: Cruise-Ins, tours, shows and civic events. Most events will start in April 2011.

Northern Neck Corvette Club
Contact: Roger McKinley, president, 804-580-5044, or Tom 804-580-2397, or Joe 804-580-0900
Meets: 7 p.m., third Monday at Bank of Lancaster northside branch.
Membership: More than 50 members.
Events: Periodic Cruise-Ins and appear by special invitation to farmers’ markets, parades, and car shows.
Oct. 17: Oyster Roast
Dec. 10: Christmas parade in Kilmarnock.

Coming soon—a car club for the lower Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula
Contact: Jack Ashburn, 804- 435-6171.
Events: A full schedule of events is planned for 2011.

posted 11.11.2010

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